All About Spike

Chapter: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45

By Ginmar

Chapter 44

D'Hoffryn had just scored a particularly triumphant hotel sweep when Spike cleared his throat. Loudly. It was so loud, and so fake, that slowly, everyone's eyes paused on the Monopoly board and then in tiny increments looked up. Angel and Buffy had crept back into the house, Buffy with her hands jammed in her back pockets, and Angel with his crossed in front of his crotch, the look of a man who subconsciously feared an all-too-immanent kick in the crotch. From the discomfort displayed by both of them, it looked as if he might have good reason for that fear. Buffy looked as if she'd just received a shock, and Angel had the pained look of a man who'd expected to deliver one and might have gotten one himself.

Five expectant faces stared up at them. Spike stared at the ground, and scuffed around with one boot, as if drawing patterns in non-existent dirt.

"Okay, I give up." Xander said. "This is not good, this silent stuff. What is it, another apocalypse?"

"Well." Buffy said.

"Well," Angel said faintly.

"You know..."

"Yeah." Angel sighed.

"Uh..."Buffy swallowed and looked at the ground, just as Spike finally looked up. Finding her looking down, he swallowed, too, and then went back to staring at the floor. "Angel and I were catching up." She said firmly. Too firmly. "A lot of water...Uh. Under the bridge."

"Yeah." Angel agreed. "A lot. Better than over the...Uh. Bridge. Well, anyway..."

"Well, and there's some stuff we got caught up on..."

"Oh." Anya said briskly. "Like the whole year?"

"Yes, the whole year." Buffy said gratefully. "And" At that, Angel jerked as if he'd been jabbed with a cattle prod. Buffy cast a suspicious glance at Spike, but he had the virtuous look of a vampire who'd never told a lie about laundry in his life.

"Yeah." Angel said. "Not to mention the whole...inappropriate love life."

Spike perked up and raised his eyebrows at Buffy. "Well," Buffy said. "I guess everybody's got a lot to talk about, then, don't we?"

Angel regarded her thoughtfully for a long moment. "Some more than others."

Buffy stared at him and slowly and surely, felt adrenalin cook through her veins. "Yeah, Angel, I guess there's some lessons nobody ever learns, right? I mean, what have I got to fall back on? Should I try and pick some nice guy? I did that three times and they all turned evil. Well, maybe not evil, but...not nice." How scary is it when a vampire starts acting human, and it means he stops returning your calls and dumps you? She thought. Some vampires, she amended, glancing at Spike. With a mental shake, she returned to the subject at hand. "Then I picked the evil guy and he turned nice. All you did was trade up to somebody who's temporarily human. Oh, yeah, and she tried to kill me a bunch of times and you didn't care! And," she muttered, "she dressed like a schoolgirl. A tacky schoolgirl.Ugh. Lolita much?"

"She's not the only person who tried to kill you," Angel said, starting to get mad. It's different, he thought, not quite sure how, but certain that it was. I bet there's a prophecy about it. "But I guess it's only okay if it's..."

"Yeah, Spike's tried to kill Buffy a whole bunch of..."Xander said happily, then stopped as if he'd slapped up against a big brick wall. "Okay, why am I disliking this conversation all of a sudden?"

"Because it's boring?" D'Hoffryn muttered. "Because neither one will---" Buffy, Spike, and Angel all glared at him. "Sorry, but you... you...humans. Look at that friend of yours who's a witch. She didn't have any determination. She would have made such a great vengeance demon. Such unhappiness, such anger, and she tossed it all away on you guys! What a waste! Do you know what it's like, hanging around, waiting to see if you guys are going to do anything to one another? And follow through. Or you go after some poor demon----" He glanced mournfully at Hallie, who tried to look pitiful, but spoiled it by glancing up demurely to see if people were looking at her."----who was just minding their own business. Really, it's..." He shook his head, not so much disgusted as just disappointed. "It's very disturbing."

"Well, we're human." Buffy said stiffly. "We do things like that."

"Buffy..." Xander said slowly. He looked at her, then at Spike, who leaned against the wall behind her. Despite the relaxed pose, the vampire was anything but calm and Xander could practically see the air vibrating between them. Spike stared at her whenever she wasn't looking at him. But she was looking at him---when he wasn't looking at her. Nothing unusual there, was there? Xander thought, but in fact, it was slowly dawning on him that there was something unusual about it. Buffy had never used to look at Spike, at least during the whole tense period after the Revelation of his crush on her. But that was last year, he thought queasily. She'd gone off to his crypt after the whole Buffybot thing, all set on staking him, came home in a tight-lipped snit, and then had stalked back with bandages. No explanation for that turnaround. She'd never told anybody exactly what had happened. But after that, for the longest time, till she died, he thought, she hadn't looked at Spike directly, but sideways, or out of the corner of her eye. Business as usual, he thought, but no, it wasn't. What made it notable was that he'd noticed it, somehow, noticed that it was odd for them to be avoiding each other's eyes all of a sudden. When did that happen?

Come to think of it...he thought. He tried to remember what it had been like after she came back, right after she came back. She'd been so distant, so dazed. It was like she'd been in a dark place forever and the sudden bright light hurt her eyes. Where had Spike been during all this?

Think, brain, think.

The very first night, they'd come from her grave to find Spike sitting across from her in the living room, holding her hands like they would break. And then, afterward, they had found him outside, the same as always, under the tree, but crying. He'd never been able to put into words the feeling of disgust and pity that had swamped over him at the time. A vampire, crying, for the Slayer. Too complicated for me. Definitely do not want to feel sorry for William the Bloody.

Of course, that was bad news. It meant Spike was obsessed again. Good old Spike, who you could tolerate, sort of, like the one person in school who was more unpopular than you were, and who was so damned grateful if anybody treated them nice at all. He liked that type of gratitude, didn't want to see it end. Sort of like the way he himself had treated Jonathon. But the problem with Good Old Spike became apparent when Buffy came back, and she was so weak and quiet...and in Spike's company. .And why would anybody find the company of a vampire so attractive? Wasn't he a reminder of where she'd been? Who would want to remember hell? If she'd been in darkness, why would she associate with a creature of it?

The dancing demon, he thought. Of course, omit entirely, the whole cause of the dancing demon, and what you were left with was that peculiar feeling of something going on just out of sight, just out of hearing. That was it. The way she'd spoken to Spike in the Magic Box... "You said you didn't want to see me..."

He could feel the blood draining out of his body. Seeing her. Oh, God. Think, think. Why did that make his stomach shrivel up into a raisin? What am I even thinking about? Buffy would never... An image came to his brain, and he furiously shoved it away, of a sheet-clad Spike, and a tomb that looked like a tornado had hit it. Nope, not gonna go there. I'm seeing things; that's it. Hell, I'm even hearing things. What did Buffy just say?

"You...ah...You said three guys. Three." He held up three fingers and laughed nervously. "I mean, we all know that Parker had a dual personality, but you're counting both of them now? Did you give the other one a name...?"

Buffy turned a bright red and stared at the coffee table for courage. Oh, God, here it comes.I am so not ready for this. Yes, I am. No, I'm not. Oh, boy. Oh, God. No, I can do this. I can do this. I've died twice, what could be worse?Being friendless, that's what. Even great sex all the... She glanced up at Spike for a moment, not even aware she was seeking his encouragement, which he gave her with a tight nod. I can do this. I can do this. Xander saw that and blanched white, that fast bright look flashing between them, making him wonder what he'd been missing. After a long pause, Buffy turned her eyes from Spike to Xander, looking at him for a long, steady moment before replying. You stayed with me this long, she thought. Don't stop being my friend now. "Angel, Parker, Riley." She said quietly. " tried to be good. Well, except for Parker. He was a jerk. But they weren't good for me. Or maybe I wasn't good for them."

"You said." There was a shrill note in his voice now. "Three good guys and one..."

"I should have said something earlier."

"Said something? About what?! About what?"

Buffy took a deep breath. "About Spike. About Spike...and me."

Xander blinked several times, turned even paler, and fainted.

"Did I hit my head on something?"

"No, sweetie, I was right here and I caught you."

"What happened?"

"You fainted."

"I did not."

"Yes, you did, honey, you turned white, and your eyes rolled up, and then you went..."

"Oh, God, it must have been a hallucination."

"About what?"

"I dreamed Buffy said..."

"Oh, that wasn't a dream." Anya said. "Buffy's boinking Spike."

"Oh, God, somebody please hit me over the head."

He was still extremely light-headed, lying flat on his back with an afghan tossed over him, and he seemed to feel extraordinarily cold.

"Anya." Buffy said firmly.

"Oh, yes, I'm sorry." Anya said agreeably. "Buffy and I already discussed this but I forgot. I'm not supposed to use the word boink about her and Spike."

"Oh,God. Oh, God. Can I trade this for syphilis? Syphilis is so much less painful."

"And it's curable." Anya pointed out. "Penicillin and all that. It didn't use to be. It used to be one of my best attention-getters."

" and Buffy talked?About this? You talked already? Her and...?"

"Oh, yes."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"Well, Buffy asked me not to, which I understand now, because you're not reacting well. Neither is Angel, either. Maybe men shouldn't be allowed to discuss this type of thing."

"Angel's a vampire."

"Well, not really..."

"Hey..."Angel snapped.



"You told Anya, but you wouldn't tell me?"

She hesitated such a long time that he had time to wonder about her state of mind. "I was afraid you'd react the way you ...are."

"Well, of course I..." Xander glanced unwillingly at Angel. "You think I'd be glad about it? He's a vampire."

"People change," she said quietly. "Spike changed. So did I."

"You haven't changed." He said weakly. "You're human. He hasn't changed. He's a vampire."

"He's changed."

"Yeah, because of the chip."

"The chip didn't make him watch Dawn all summer when I was gone."

"The chip didn't make him try and get in your...Sorry."

"The chip isn't the problem, is it Xander?" She threw up her hands in exasperation, and noticed Angel flinch back slightly out of the corner of her eye. "You know, it just seems kind of unfair that everybody wants to interfere in my life, but nobody wants to interfere in, like, a helpful way. You want to interfere? Interfere with my job or my bills. Nobody does that."

"I need to sit down," he said breathlessly.

"You are sitting down." Anya pointed out. "Well, sort of."

"Then I need to lie down."

"You are lying down. Look at the bright side; at least she's a Slayer; I bet she wins all the arguments." She didn't notice Buffy's flinch at that.

"You and Spike..."

Buffy took a deep breath. "Me and Spike." She checked the others' reactions. Lorne was beaming at her, Hallie looked a little miffed that everyone was now staring at Buffy, and Wes had removed his glasses and was polishing them with his shirt tail. That must be the first thing they teach them in Watcher School, Buffy thought. D'Hoffryn stared down at the Monopoly board with great glumness, and Anya patted Xander. She looked pointedly at Anya, but when she repeated her earlier statement, her voice was gentle. "People do change."

"People change," Xander said in a thin voice, "but Spike's not a people."

"Hey." Spike snapped. "Try and at least be interesting about it." But his heart wasn't in it. The good guys all turned evil and the evil one turned good, he thought. "You're one to talk, Harris, dating the ex-demon and all."

"The key word there is ex." Xander pointed out.

"Yeah, well, there's this chip.."

"What happens when the chip fails then?"

"What happens when it doesn't?" Spike said disgustedly. "Oh, that's right, that bloody doesn't matter, because whether it's the chip or it's me or it's just the fact you're too far below my standards to eat, you're going to treat me the same no matter what. And demon girl was a demon a lot longer than I've been a vampire. Where's her chip?"

Xander stared at him, words coming to his lips automatically. "That's...different."

"Yeah, it's different." Spike snapped, and Xander struggled to sit up. "It's different because it's you and your girlfriend." Then Buffy stepped forward and gave them both a look, laying a hand on Spike's chest that seemed to stay there far too long.

"God, do we need to have a study hall or something so you guys remember what I said? And I'm feeding you, too. Those were supposed to last all week." Buffy gestured at all the snacks covering the table. "And you know what? You guys are cleaning all this up. And you're doing the dishes, too." She crossed her arms and tried to look firm. A little yelling was something she could handle; she was surprised it wasn't worse than that.

"Well, I don't have a chip because I'm not a demon any longer," Anya pointed out helpfully. "Although I supposed those soldiers would have given me one if they'd have caught me."

"That's different, sweetie."

"Well, no," She sighed. "There used to be fairy tales about me. Of course, now there's fairy tales about those soldiers. If you're a demon, that is." She looked around. "I liked it better the other way around, when I scared people, although now I scare shoplifters, so it's not totally different. What?" She looked at Xander. "That's something at least."

Spike stared at her, then at Xander. "Explain something to me, Harris, if you don't mind."

"I don't have to explain anything to you."

"Well, maybe someone can."

Buffy turned and looked at him. Angel had slumped into a chair and was staring at the floor in the exact same pose as D'Hoffryn, both with one palm supporting their chin, raising only their eyes to whoever was speaking. "What?" Buffy mouthed at him.

"Well, demon girl was a demon how many years? How many centuries?"

Anya beamed at him. If she had a photo album, Buffy thought, she'd be whipping it out right about now. This is how I spent my last eleven hundred summers, torturing men. "It was about eleven centuries," Anya said brightly. "But you have to take into account leap years."

"So if you put me and Sunshine here together, we haven't been around even half as long as you were, right?"

"Nope, you two are novices." Anya said happily. Somebody who spoke her language! Even though Xander was white as a sheet, he was getting that tight-around-the-lips look he got when she brought up her demon past. "Really, there's a big stylistic difference in killing as opposed to, oh, I don't know, maiming, wounding, slow lingering deaths. It's sort of like comparing fast food to a gourmet meal. I mean, no offense, but you two really do it the quick and easy way. I bet you guys use microwave blood, too." At this, both Angel and Spike hung their heads a moment in embarrassment. " It's just that fast food mentality, it's done away with the artistry of killing. I bet you've never done research at all." She rolled her eyes. "I could certainly show you a thing or..." Xander cleared his throat, and put his hand on her arm, but Anya shook her head impatiently. "Now, Xander, I was a demon for a long time, you can't expect me to pretend it didn't happen. I mean, I need something to talk about in my old age."

"No, of course not, why explain anything to me?" Spike answered for him, completely ignoring Anya. "But what I bloody want to know is this. How come Soul Boy here and Demon Girl get a free pass without so much as liftin' a bleedin' finger----him and that curse, and her with whatever it was, I never did get the memo. I don't even know what you bloody people want, actually. But nothin' I do gets me any recognition at all, nothing whatsoever. Explain that to me. Think I wanted this bloody chip? Think I wanted my life, er, unlife, turned upside down? But I make the best of it, I try to change with the times, and none of you so much as bloody notice. Why?"

"Oh, that's easy." Xander said. "That's ever so easy. Because you're evil. You might have a chip, but you're still evil and the minute that chip comes out you'll go after all of us, like you've done before."

"What makes you think if I wanted to, I wouldn't have found a way to before now, you git?"

"You never found a way to, before." Xander blurted out, then looked confused. "Okay, that was supposed to sound way more critical."

"Uh, excuse me?" Buffy raised a hand. "Can somebody correct me if I'm wrong a minute here?"

Everyone looked expectantly at her. "Well, number one, there's me, a Slayer, dating a vampire. Who loves me. Who stayed with me, even when I was dead. Who didn't leave." She added pointedly, but her back was to Angel, so she couldn't see him stiffen. "Then there's, uh, Xander, who is dating an ex demon, who was a demon a lot longer than Spike was a vampire. And of course, there's Angel."

"What about Angel?" Xander asked curiously. "Seems like he's the most, well, normal one of all." He tossed a pointed glance in Spike's direction. "Doesn't kill people, has a kid..."

"Call the hairdresser," Spike muttered.

There is a God, because my sex life is no longer the topic of discussion, Buffy thought. Angel's is.

"Uh, what?" In his chair, Angel's eyes widened suddenly as everyone swiveled around to look at him.

"Oh, I forgot Willow." Buffy said, reprieving him briefly. "She dated a werewolf. But anyway, go ahead, Angel."

Even Xander perked up a bit at the prospect of some Angel gossip, even though he knew, guiltily, that he wasn't supposed to dislike Angel anymore. However, Buffy had been very unhappy with the way he'd taken off like that, so he felt entitled to some situational dislike. Especially seeing as how this conversation didn't seem to be going anywhere good at all.

"Well." Angel looked at the coffee table, too. "Darla..."

"Excuse me, who's Darla?" Xander asked.

"Blonde vampire from a couple of years ago," Buffy muttered, as if whispering in class.

"Uh, Buff, lots of blond vampires. Darla?"

"Jesse." Buffy said softly. "She turned Jesse." She'd saved a lot of lives, but it was the ones she'd lost that she remembered.

"Jesse." Xander said quietly. He was seventeen again, and dealing with the reality that there could in fact be monsters in his closet, when he had only just gotten over convincing himself that there weren't. Ah, yes, Sunnydale, where all the fairytales are by the brothers very very Grimm. Now I'm going to have to think about all the other people who vampires got before Buffy came here. "But Angel staked her, so why are we talking about her? Setting up a dental college fund or something in her memory or what?"

"Or what," Buffy said dryly. "She was, ah, I guess, she ah, made Angel a vampire, and she was, oh, about four hundred years old. She tried to kill me, too, with guns, well, at least once, and then Angel staked her."

"But----" and here Xander swallowed and tried to find his funny voice, "she bit the dust, right? Another one bit the du---oh, never mind."

"Wolfram and Hart brought her back." Angel said. His voice had the monotonous tone of a man who was reciting something he could barely think about, much less speak of. "As a human."

"Oh." Why Darla and why not Jesse, huh?Or Jenny? Why not Jenny? Why don't they ever bring back people like Jenny? What if Spike...? He glanced nervously at Spike, who of course noticed it instantly.

"Stop it, Harris, or I'll go all shy."

"Would you?" Xander retorted. "Would you leave then?"

Buffy gave Xander Joyce's Mom Eye Roll, then Spike. "I'm starting to think Anya is right. Maybe we just shouldn't allow you guys to discuss this type of thing. Well, at least not until after Angel's done. Go on."

"Well..." Angel shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Too many faces were looking at him. "And..." He shifted again. "I can't explain it."

I don't even care if you can explain it, Buffy thought. But I tried and you have to try, too, dammit. In front of people.

"Darla was human." Angel said quietly. "For a while. Wolfram and Hart wanted to use her against me."

"Uh...who are they?" Xander asked.

"Huge law firm in LA." Wes said. "They're quite evil." He glanced down. "They had some doings with Faith, when she was in LA."

"Did she kill one of them?" Buffy asked, then shrugged before he could answer. "Don't know who to root for, there."

"Uh..." Wes blinked at her for a moment. "Sorry, I simply don't know."

" 's okay. Go on, Angel." Buffy nodded at Angel.


"Wait..." Xander said. "You mean, she didn't get, like, you know, offed right away?"

"No," Angel said uncomfortably.

"No?" Xander repeated. "No? No? Why not?" He took a deep breath to settle himself and found that it didn't work at all. He glanced up at Buffy, not sure how much he could say about Angel in front of her. Then he turned, shaking his head at Angel and himself, both. Did you and Darla have a lot of catching up to do? Wanted to reminisce about old times? Different methods of trying to kill Buffy? How to really drive her nuts?

"It's complicated," Angel said. "It's really complicated."

"We're all complicated!" Xander exclaimed in frustration. "But..." He ran into that brick wall again. Oh, God, he thought. Oh, God. She was your sire or whatever it is orwhoever it is that makes you a vampire, and you...? You definitely didn't kill her. Did she know you went all Angelus on us for a while there? How could you not...?

"She was human," Angel said helplessly.

"Well, so, she gets a Get Out of Hell card automatically? She killed my best friend! She turned him into..." He glanced at Spike.

"Hey." Spike snapped. "That is different, I'll have you know."


"Angelus was the one always turnin' things right and left." Spike said. "Me, I just wanted...lunch."

Silence thumped down on the room.

A car glided by outside, and from somewhere else they heard another car horn honk.

"So...what happened, Angel?" Xander prodded.

"Well..." Angel sighed. He looked around the room. D'Hoffryn was looking up, only his eyes following the conversation, while Wes and Hallie politely waited for him to start speaking again. Lorne was idly buffing his nails on his blazer, then blowing on them. Spike, lounging against the wall by the stairs, was out of his vision, but he could practically feel the other vampire's eyes boring twin holes into him. He took a deep breath to stall and found that he still couldn't force a single word out of his mouth.

"C'mon, Angel," Buffy urged quietly. "Confession's good for the...Oh. Sorry. I never thought about that."

He actually opened his mouth, looked around, and still nothing came out. It was just too much; he didn't even understand what had happened himself, and he was supposed to explain it to people who didn't even like him?

"Oh, God, how about if I try?" Buffy said.

"Try what?" Xander asked.

"No," Angel said. "No."

He stared at his hands. There must be some way I can do this, he thought If I had a year...

"Angel..." Buffy urged.


She looked down into his eyes, and he tried to compose himself. The same eyes, she thought. Those same eyes. How can people change so much on the inside and still look the same on the outside? "Let me try."

"Let me try," she repeated.

"Try what?" Xander asked.

"Let me see if I can tell this story, because Angel can't." Or won't. She stepped forward, took a deep breath, and cleared her throat. "I was fighting evil all last year and it got really difficult, and I was really lonely." She looked at Angel, who stared at her fiercely for a moment before dropping his eyes. "But then these lawyers brought back Darla, and made her human. So even though I knew she was evil, and had been evil for four hundred years, we, you know, and somehow she got pregnant! Now I have a kid. And the mother used to be a vampire or, actually is a vampire, or was a vampire, till she dusted herself, and even though she was a vampire, I'm going to forget about that around people who have relationships with vampires who are a whole lot less evil. Than her. Did I miss something? Oh, yeah, throw in something about vengeance demons and we've got everybody covered. Because I think just about everybody in this room has had sex with a vampire now." She sat down with a plop in the last chair. "Did I miss anything? Anything at all?"

"A vampire got pregnant?" Xander said. "And the dad was...?"

"I wonder if this is a trend." Anya wondered. "I could stock magical birth control."

"Angel." Buffy directed her remark at Xander. "It was Angel."

"So Connor's really yours?" Xander suddenly went white again. "Is he a vampire?"

"No, he's human."

"Does he look like you?"

"Oh, yes." This time it was Wes who spoke. "I don't believe you saw the pictures." He dug out his wallet, and flipped it open to the pictures. "There's a distinct resemblance there. Look, there's Lorne, making faces."

"Yeah, well, his lungs put mine to shame, let me tell you." Lorne said sourly. "The kid's going to sing at the Met."

"He's, ah, cute." Xander said. "So, ah, could I just mention, again, that my family now looks normal, and I'm not sure I like that at all? I mean, considering it takes two vampires...well, I'm just not comfortable any more."

"Oh, Xander, wait till you see my relatives." Anya said. "Then you can start worrying."

Xander blinked up at her. "Nice to know my family's place at the top of the podium won't be vacant long."

"Well, good," Buffy said. "Then everybody can keep busy and leave me alone."

"Buffy..."Xander said.


"Do you really want me to...leave you alone?"

"Did I ever bug you about Anya? Huh? Did I?"

"No, not really."

"What do you mean, not really?"

Wes looked from Buffy to Xander, then down at his watch. He caught Lorne's eye, nodding at the debris on the table. Lorne stared back blankly until Wes tapped at his watch, then quietly shifted to his feet and picked up a couple of the dishes scattered around the Monopoly game and carried them to the kitchen. D'Hoffryn, only his eyes moving, hunched down further on the couch and watched them leave. Hallie blinked as Wes got up and left, and quietly got to her feet and followed after them. At the door she turned and gestured at Anya. Come tell me about your dress, she mouthed, but Anya gestured at Xander, propped weakly on couch pillows on the floor. Halllie stepped forward, nodding at both Xander and Buffy before grabbing Anya's hand. Reluctantly, she rose to her feet before she could be hoisted up. After a moment's thought, she held out a hand to D'Hoffryn who she yanked up and dragged after her, like a boat towing a reluctant dinghy.

Angel, Spike, Buffy and Xander remained. Spike and Angel stared at each other, till Spike sniffed. "I'm not leaving. That's your job."

"No, your job is to disappoint everybody and then never finish anything."

"At least I'm persistent. You never hang around long to disappoint anybody."

Buffy and Xander both looked up and after a moment's glaring, both vampires thought better of fighting in front of witnesses. They left, one heading for the kitchen, the other for the street.

"So.." Xander said.

"So..." Buffy repeated.

"We have to talk, right?"

"I think we already talked, didn't we? Do we need to go all over it again?" She looked into his eyes. "You know, my dad took off and Angel took off, but you're still here. I want you to always be here, okay? But I want Spike, too. Maybe he'll take off, too, but I don't know. I can't tell anymore. I just not to."

"But it's Spike, Buffy..."

"You were right, Xander. People don't change. But...he did." She struggled with words, her throat closing. "He changed for me, Xander. And for Dawn. The whole time I was gone... He deserves credit for that."

"Seems like he's already getting it." Xander muttered, but Buffy raised both eyebrows at him, and he looked abashed for a moment.

"Did Anya ever say she was sorry?"


"Did Anya ever say she was sorry?"

He shook his head at her, bewildered by the question. "For what?"

Buffy stared at him for a moment. For eleven centuries. "It just seems like you...hold Spike's past against him---which you should----but not Anya's."

"That's different."


"She's human."

"Why is that? Was she like the Little Mermaid? Did she change because of you? You were just as pissed at Angel a minute ago, over Darla."

"Well..." She watched his face as he thought it over, his eyes clouding over, a frown gradually accumulating on his face. "You're just confusing me now."

She got to her feet, dusting herself off. "Xander, you have to think about it, okay? And I mean, really think about it. I just...I expect better from you, okay?"

For a moment, he looked so young that she couldn't help but remember how long it had been, how much they had gone through together. "Buffy..."

"No buts, okay. If you disapprove of Angel, of me, then you have to disapprove of yourself, too."

His jaw dropped. She watched him for a moment, to see if he was going to keel over again, but he didn't. She got up and left him to find Spike.

Continued in Chapter 45

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